Monday, February 14, 2011

Jackqueline Frost responds to Gaze by Marthe Reed

“In the sexual isolation of entreaty, a fencing mask binds her”:
Notes On Marthe Reed’s Gaze::

Read, “Neither veil nor tumbled hair contain her fear.” One could say, as Spicer did, that poetry is a project of disclosure. So it is that Marthe Reed’s Gaze becomes, to my mind, a text of disclosing text, exchanging exchanges, as: “Letters compose themselves across the sclera of the eye/ Can you see this?” In the apocalyptic literature of the ancient Near East, how often a hero is asked to interpret dreams: something that is obscured from view, while all the signs are present, ready to be deciphered. In Gaze, we are asked to interpret photographs, speeches, couture, and of course, the text, aware that a site was made for inscription as “Blood sports here. A remarkable surface, erasure.” In this sense, we have this “ready source of dark” that asks, within which night is salvation located? And how does one conduct projects informed by history, with the knowledge of a constant motion in the firmament of our epoch, over which epistemic information hovers, changing. Say that, “After forty years, the ground returns from the dead.” What happens when those surfaces with which we are aligned move tectonically, or tech-tonically? Read, “Her glance contains the floor.”

The Apocalyptic literatures of antiquity rendered, through figuration of language, a specific indictment of Empiricism. This mechanism produces a sort of “seeing without being seen,” present in Reed’s poetics, through semantic re-combinations and subtle syllogistic movement. Aware that Terror is the State in which one is called to writing, Reed writes, “In an age of terror, obfuscation takes the point,” begging the question, what disguises are employed for such a task? Read “Dans le milieu de la lame….her dress codes menace, subverting desire,” as delineated bodies are mettaled or embroidered. Here, “Leather insinuates menace. Or desire,” to reveal not an indictment of Empire-propre, but an indictment of Empire-as-Culture Industry, because, honestly, “any war will do” when the powers are so diffuse there is trouble “mapping distress.” What if, just as we are getting our means, our strategies together, “even heaven retreats”? We need a reconstitution of action, a new subtlety, more frightening, as we are being absented, a “real forte a/ neon tenor” as “farse lofts.”

Theopany > Apokálypsis > No Deus Machina Ex > Non-redemption > ‘Saved Night’> D

If fashion is a metonymic discourse of the body, how does fashion (luxury) operate in the “army surplus”, wherein it becomes an arsenal? In Gaze we are invited to consider the sexes as less substantive, more mechanistic, with specific ideological armories. Read “armour binds/ a waist” as if we force ourselves into (or onto) secrets, in pursuit of the pleasures of the text. As Barthes noted, It is obvious that the pleasure of the text is scandalous: not because it is immoral but because it is atopic. In Gaze, “Couture dissembles, too beautiful to— her face obscured by a mask.” To reformulate, in Reed’s work, the pleasure of Couture is scandalous, not because it is immoral, and less because it is false, but because it is placeless, ineffable, atopic. As the question of ethics (and aesthetics) is that of embodiment, Po-ethics is concerned with voyeuristic relation between subject and object. The encounter of the allegory, figuration, or metaphor, undercuts the certainty of a formal identification as viewer or viewed, self or other, as if “the camera’s attention insists on her notice.” To frame Reed’s Gaze within the rubric of the Po-ethical, is to engage the wager: So from Pascal’s Pensées, we read: Oui, mais il faut parier. Cela n'est pas volontaire, vous êtes embarqué. (Yes, but you must wager. This is not voluntary, you are embarked.) So, embarked, we read “In the seams between self and other, glance and gaze furrow, tumbling into a caress of their own.” The obvious inquiry arises, what is being seen, by whom, what occurs in the space of a veil? Pursuant of nuance, in Gaze, the reader encounters the object (a body, woman’s) already veiled, altering both products of the Culture Industry: the object and the gaze. So what is it to engage as a viewer with the obfuscated? How does this insinuate a reversal of roles?

Could the gaze be rendered as un unaffected liminal space? In the sense that “text represents its own illusions,” the gaze is an apparatus that ultimately reserves its own obsolescence. Reed returns the text to its proper situ as textile, woven matter, so that the text is at once the fabric and the surface on which that fabric is woven. There is a sense of women floating in fabric (social, if we are speaking of the social body) as sites of vertical signifiers of meaning, as all networks create fragmentation. Such is the nature of the router, the hub. It is from “an agency of isolation” that these machina and motives occur, like in “a rifle’s neglect: text occurs in its absence.” Read: “Transgressive text, a passage in white belies the absence of cover, her face performing its own absence. Seeing is believing” So how are the particularities of viewing created through an encounter of embodied representations? How does one counter, garde, if you will, a damselization, even in the text? Once “She refuses parody. Parity. Can we imagine grace? Redemption in the arms of another falters, inevitably losing ground to the rules of concealment.” Reed’s work in Gaze confirms the notion that one can make an object of text that results in a device to critically devalue objectification. Herein, I’ve read a methodology of sight. Call sight faith. We find Reed “writing at the edge of faith, where distance erases certainty.” And all this quivers when touched, as if asking, please, study this.

Couture > Textile > Obscuration > Reference > Revelation > Lift > D

Gaze is available from SPD:

Jackqueline Frost with Zach Tuck curates the Condensery Reading Series in Oakland, California:


  1. How can i get in touch with Jackqueline or Zach about reading in the series?...

  2. I actually prefer my radishes frosted